The Lancaster JetHawks pitching staff has been named the best pitching staff in minor league baseball according to Jim Callis (MLB.com).
Here’s what Callis had to say about the different starters in the rotation:
On Mark Appel:
Appel is still looking for his first victory and his first quality start after seven outings, and his ERA is a grisly 10.48. The good news is that he’s showing the same stuff that got him drafted No. 1 a year ago. But he’s not locating it well enough down in the strike zone. He averaged 94 mph and reached 97 with his fastball on Sunday, and he has shown flashes of a plus slider and solid changeup.
On Josh Hader
While Appel has struggled terribly, a left-hander drafted 18 rounds later than he was has dominated. Signed for $40,000 out of a Baltimore high school by the Orioles in 2012, Josh Hader came to the Astros last July in a trade for Bud Norris. Hader currently leads the Cal League in ERA (2.27) and opponent batting average (.188), and he has struck out 78 in 71 1/3 innings.
After throwing in the mid-80s for most of his high school senior season, Hader has gotten stronger and now operates in the low 90s and can hit 96 mph with his fastball. He has made significant strides with his changeup this season, though his slider remains inconsistent. Hader’s lanky build and his low-three-quarters arm slot have earned him some Chris Sale comparisons.
On Lance McCullers Jr.
A supplemental first-round pick in 2012, McCullers might have the most overpowering stuff on the staff. Both his 93- to 98-mph fastball and his hard curveball have the potential to become well-above-average offerings. His power is more notable than his polish, as evidenced by his 66/30 strikeouts-to-walks ratio and his 4.58 ERA in 57 innings.
Velasquez was a second-rounder and had a strong pro debut in 2010, but Tommy John elbow surgery that winter sidetracked his career for a while. He has performed well since reaching full-season ball in 2013 and got off to a fast start this season, going 4-1 with a 2.89 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 28 innings before getting hurt. His 92- to 94-mph fastball and changeup project to be plus pitches, and he’s been making progress with his curveball.
There’s a sleeper in the Lancaster rotation, too. Chris Devenski waited 25 rounds in the 2011 Draft before the White Sox took him, and he came to the Astros the following summer as the player to be named in a trade for Brett Myers. Thanks to a 90- to 94-mph fastball and an effective changeup, Devenski has a sparkling 68/11 K/BB ratio in 66 2/3 innings this year.
The JetHawks have a 3.93 ERA as a staff, an excellent mark considering they pitch in one of the most hitter friendly parks in the whole country.
The JetHawks offense was outstanding the first half of the season, but they will lose a key part of their offense today. Tony Kemp was told he was promoted to Corpus Christi today.
Drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Kemp hit .336 with 4 HR, 4 3B, 19 2B, 37 RBI, 28 SB, and a 35/45 – K/BB ratio in 72 games for the JetHawks. The 22-year old will get everyday at-bats with the Hooks.
JetHawks SS Carlos Correa is still in Houston and they have yet to announce his status for the rest of the season. Correa is expected to miss a “significant” amount of time. We should hear more about his status later today or tomorrow.